Pope John Paul II has asked for forgiveness for many of the Roman Catholic Church’s past sins, including its treatment of First Nations, Jews, women and heretics.

It is believed to be the first time in the church’s history that one of its leaders asked for such a sweeping pardon.

The 79-year-old pontiff addressed an audience at St. Peter’s Basilica on the Catholic Day of Forgiveness for the 2000 Holy Year. “We forgive and we ask for forgiveness,” said the pope.

The address did not name groups or historical events, but prayers during the Mass were more specific. The pope spoke of seven categories of forgiveness, including those against Christian unity, Jews, respect for love, peace and cultures, the dignity of women and minorities, and against human rights.

But some are unconvinced. Native News, an Internet news service, ran a response from one Native American man who noted that the current pope has refused to overturn the 1493 Papal Bull giving “right of discovery” and land title to those who acquired new territories in the name of the church, especially in the Americas.